For Buckeye state residents interested in forensic science, crime scene investigation (CSI), and related disciplines, there are several quality forensics colleges in Ohio (OH). After graduating from a program, these professionals typically help solve crimes by collecting evidence from crime scenes; performing laboratory analyses; collaborating with various experts in metallurgy; and even testifying in court.
Ohio offers various educational programs, including flexible online options, for those seeking a career in science-based law enforcement. To become a forensic scientist, candidates typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences. Others pursue careers as crime scene investigators and may get their careers started in a police academy, pursuing more education while working in the field. There are a variety of paths for aspiring forensic scientists detailed below.
Forensic science is a relatively high-paying career in Ohio. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for forensic science technicians is $64,890 annually (BLS 2020). This is 13 percent higher than the average salary for all occupations in the country at $56,310 (BLS 2020). By comparison, forensic scientists in Ohio earn slightly higher-than-average wages at $67,400 (BLS 2020), nearly 4 percent higher than the national average for all forensic science techs.
The BLS estimates there are currently 440 forensic science technicians employed in Ohio, and this figure is expected to grow in the coming years. Between 2019 and 2029, the number of forensic science techs in the U.S. is expected to increase 14 percent, with a number of those job openings in Ohio and surrounding metropolitan areas.
To learn about degree programs, certifications, and the job outlook for forensic scientists in Ohio, read below.
Becoming a forensic scientist in Ohio can take many educational and experiential paths. A four-year college degree is a typical requirement; however, there are numerous two-year degree and certificate programs to get started. Here is one of the most common pathways to pursuing a career in forensic science:
Step 1: Graduate from high school (four years)
Candidates for forensic science positions typically have strong natural sciences and mathematics backgrounds, including classes in chemistry, physics, biology, and calculus. These classes prepare students for the laboratory work and detail-oriented scientific analyses expected in this position.
Step 2: Pursue a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, physics (four years)
Forensic scientists in Ohio also typically take courses in statistics, writing, and mathematics. While crime scene investigators and forensic science technicians may work with a high school degree and relevant experience, forensic scientists in Ohio typically need a bachelor’s degree to work in a lab.
According to Career One Stop, which the U.S. Department of Labor sponsors, 30 percent of forensic scientists reported having a bachelor’s degree, 14 percent had associate degrees, and 24 percent had some college. The BLS (2021) notes that there may be exceptions for these basic educational requirements, especially in rural areas where the demand for forensic scientists is high.
Step 3: Seek certification from a national organization (timeline varies)
Although certification is not required to practice forensic science in Ohio, there are several organizations that offer certification, particularly for specific sub-disciplines.
The most common certifying organizations include the American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) and the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB). In addition, the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) provides a comprehensive list of accredited professional certification bodies, many of which offer membership or certification benefits, including region-specific chapters and networking.
Step 4: Pursue a master’s degree in forensic science (two years)
Those interested in specializing or enhancing their skills may choose to pursue a post-baccalaureate degree. CareerOneStop reports that 15 percent of forensic scientists have these more advanced degrees (e.g., master’s, professional, or doctoral).
In summary, aspiring forensic scientists in Ohio can expect to complete four to six years of postsecondary work, in addition to meeting optional certification requirements. While registering as a forensic scientist is not required to work in Ohio, it may be desirable to enhance one’s credentials at various employing organizations. Passing aptitude tests or fulfilling membership criteria in organizations such as the ABC, candidates may strengthen their candidacy for multiple jobs.
Also, forensic scientists can hone their skills in specific areas by taking electives such as toxicology, psychology, or physical anthropology, forensic scientists can hone their skills in specific areas. According to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), there are many specialized disciplines within forensic science, including the following:
Taking electives in any subject listed above may help forensic scientists secure jobs with more specific skill requirements. For more information, check out how to become a forensic scientist.
In 2021, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Laboratory Division reported over 200,000 pieces of evidence are processed annually in crime scene investigations. To become a crime scene investigator in Ohio, candidates typically do the following:
Step 1: Graduate from high school (four years)
Crime scene investigators in Ohio typically need at least a high school degree to join this field.
Step 2: Complete a program at a police academy (timeline varies)
Crime scene investigators in Ohio complete a program through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA). This may be sufficient for employment in more rural agencies if combined with years of relevant work experience. Program length varies regionally, but most police academy programs last approximately six to 12 months.
Step 3: Get an associate or bachelor’s degree in a field such as criminal justice, criminology, crime scene investigation, or forensic technology (two to four years)
Many crime scene investigators in Ohio opt to earn a degree to gain specific skills in their field. Some of the classes in these programs may include analytical chemistry, forensic science, and law enforcement. In addition, many educational programs are designed for working police officers to complete while working full-time.
Step 4: Pursue a certification (timeline varies)
Some crime scene investigators in Ohio choose to earn certification to bolster their credentials and earn higher salaries. While many organizations offer certifications, one of the most common in this line of work is the International Association for Identification (IAI).
Requirements for certification as a crime scene investigator include full-time employment, at least one year experience, 48 hours of crime scene certification board-approved courses, two letters of endorsement, an application fee, and passing a written test with a score of at least 75 percent. This certification is valid for five years. Other certifying agencies include the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA).
Therefore, crime scene investigators in Ohio can expect to complete six months to four years of post-secondary work, in addition to optional certification requirements. Again, while certification by agencies such as the ICSIA is not a requirement in Ohio, it may be desirable to show a candidate’s aptitude when applying for jobs.
Before seeking a CSI program or a certification, candidates in Ohio should be sure to check the requirements of their intended place of employment. For more information, the www.forensicscolleges.com education blog features a detailed breakdown of how to become a crime scene investigator.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes forensic scientists and CSIs under its “forensic science technician” categorization. According to the BLS (2020), 440 forensic science technicians are working in Ohio. The BLS projects that openings in this field will grow 14 percent between 2019 and 2029 nationwide, with a number of these openings in Ohio.
Indeed, CareerOneStop indicates a predicted growth of 9 percent in this field specific to Ohio, which is faster than the growth rate for all occupations at 4 percent (BLS 2021). As previously stated, in 2020, the average salary for those working in forensic science in Ohio was $67,400, which is slightly higher than the national average for this occupation at $64,890 (BLS May 2020).
The BLS (May 2020) provides the salary range for forensic science technicians in Ohio:
The top-paying metropolitan regions and the reported annual average salaries for forensic science technicians were:
The top-employing metropolitan regions (and the number of forensic science techs employed) were:
Typically graduates may find many of the jobs in forensic science in the larger cities due to higher crime rates and a greater need for crime-solving teams.
For example, the Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, employs forensic scientists to assist local law enforcement agencies. It also has the distinction of being the first crime lab in Ohio to be accredited by the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB). Having this national accreditation may indicate the integrity, consistency, impartiality, and quality of the laboratory services. Other employing organizations for forensic science technicians in Ohio may include:
Forensic scientists and crime scene investigators in Ohio typically work in laboratories, police stations, classrooms, medical examiner offices, hospitals, morgues, or at crime scenes. There are also several positions available in federal, state, and local governments.
The Ohio Identification Officers Association may offer an additional sense of community with its annual training conference for those seeking professional support on a regional level.
There are several top undergraduate forensic science programs in Ohio. After graduating from high school and completing typical prerequisites such as chemistry, mathematics, and biology, students in Ohio may be eligible to apply.
It’s worth noting that many educational institutions require that their candidates be of “strong moral character.” In the admissions process, several schools require background checks, reference letters to ensure students’ ethical behavior and suitability for the work required to complete forensic science degree programs.
Ashland University offers a bachelor’s of science in biology with a forensic biology concentration. This concentration is designed to give students a solid theoretical and practical background in biology and law enforcement.
In the first two years of the program, students take foundational courses in mathematics, biology, and chemistry and focus on specialized courses such as molecular biology and criminal justice in the final two years of the program. This 120-credit program places graduates in positions with the FBI, Ohio Patrol, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and local forensic science laboratories.
Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) offers a two-year degree program on-campus and online for aspiring forensic technicians, forensic technical assistants, crime scene investigators, crime scene examiners, and law enforcement officers. In addition, COTC’s associate of applied science (AAS) program in criminal justice offers introductions to corrections, drugs in the criminal system, and introduction to sociology. This program is a member of the North Central Association. COTC has campuses in Newark, Knox, Coshocton, and Pataskala.
Graduates from this program go on to pursue careers as federal agents and criminal investigators. In addition, COTC has transfer agreements with Ohio University, Tiffin University, and the University of Cincinnati, allowing students to transfer their credits towards a bachelor’s degree at these institutions.
The College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio University in Athens offers a bachelor of science (BS) in forensic chemistry. It boasts one of the longest-standing programs of its kind in the country. It notes that the rigorous curriculum and quality instruction can prepare its graduates for employment in modern crime laboratories, law enforcement agencies, and other organizations, including the FDA, OSHA, and the EPA.
OU’s forensic chemistry BS program has earned accreditation from the prestigious Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) and is the only program in Ohio with this distinction.
Tiffin University of Tiffin, Ohio, offers a 121-credit bachelor’s of criminal justice (BCJ) degree in criminalistics on-campus and online. Students in this program learn principles of crime reconstruction and analysis of physical evidence. Identification techniques and evidence preservation are emphasized, and students learn through didactic and hands-on practical methodologies.
The coursework covers principles of criminal law, human anatomy and physiology, ethical issues in criminal justice, and criminology. As part of the program, students must complete a supervised internship to get hands-on experience in evidence handling, instrumental analysis, and research design.
A unique feature of this program is police officer training offered through Terra State Community College, which gives students the hands-on experience required to work in law enforcement in Ohio. Passing a state-certified exam is necessary to become a sworn police officer in Ohio.
Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Bowling Green offers several on-campus forensic science programs out of its Center for the Future of Forensic Science, including a bachelor of science (BS) or master of science (MS) in forensic science. The BS program allows students to choose from three specializations in forensic biology, forensic chemistry, or forensic examination (including trace evidence and latent prints). The MS program prepares forensic scientists for leadership roles in laboratories and law enforcement settings.
The school also offers professional training programs for working professionals in forensic science and crime scene investigation. Finally, the BGSU campus is home to an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) crime laboratory and investigation facility.
In addition to the various forensic science program offerings in Ohio, students also have some resources at their disposal at the Forensic Science Institute of Ohio, which provides continuing education, upholds educational standards, and promotes professional development in forensic sciences in the state of Ohio.
Some students in Ohio may have full-time jobs or family commitments that prevent them from attending a traditional “brick-and-mortar” school. Online and hybrid programs expand students who need to work full-time or live far away from a college or university campus. To serve these students, Ohio colleges and universities offer many high-quality forensic science and criminal justice programs online.
North Central State College (NCSC) offers six campuses in the Ohio cities of Shelby, Ashland, Bucyrus, Willard, and two in Mansfield. In addition to these more traditional schools, NCSC offers a 100 percent online associate degree in criminal justice comprising 21 required courses in forensic psychology, cultural diversity and racism, and 65 credits of electives courses in which typically takes under two years to complete.
Students in this program learn core concepts of criminal justice in specialization areas such as juvenile justice, criminology, constitutional law, corrections, and private security. Graduates from this program go to work in local, state, or federal law enforcement. NCSC has more than 40 agreements with four-year colleges and universities to transfer credits earned in this two-year degree program to a four-year bachelor’s degree on-campus or online.
Southern State Community College, in partnership with the University of Cincinnati, offers a bachelor’s of science in information technology with a cyber security emphasis. Students in this program complete an associate’s degree in computer technology with a focus on cyber security and networking and transition and complete their bachelor of science on-campus or online. Courses are offered at the Central, Brown County, and Fayette campuses in Hillsboro, Mt. Orab, and Washington Court House respectively.
In the first two years, students take math and computer science courses and learn special topics such as database management, digital design, and special topics in cybersecurity in the final half of the program. Design practicum courses in the second half of the program give students hands-on practical experience in applying their didactic skills.
The University of Akron offers a fully online bachelor of science in criminology and criminal justice. This 120-credit program includes core courses such as government and politics in the US, introduction to police studies, and social inequalities, as well as elective courses such as Arabic culture through film and politics of the criminal justice system.
This program is offered in a cohort model to promote a community environment for online students. Specialized learning plans are available for high school graduates, professionals, or retired military service members. This program can be completed in eight semesters with a full-time course load.
Please note that many forensics programs in Ohio require classroom participation since laboratory procedures need sophisticated equipment that can’t be accessed from home.
Students may find additional online options and coursework through campus-based forensics colleges in Ohio or by checking out the national listing of online forensics and CSI programs.
There are several organizations that provide accreditation to forensics programs in Ohio. Schools that have received accreditation typically undergo a rigorous process to ensure they meet quality standards in instruction, program content, student outcomes, and other measures.
The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the primary organization that accredits forensic science programs and Ohio University is the only OH program to receive FEPAC accreditation at the programmatic level. However, those programs that do not have FEPAC accreditation can still offer precious training. Further, FEPAC accredits very few programs overall and does not consider programs without a heavily science-focused curriculum, which means most CSI and criminal justice programs are ineligible for accreditation.
At an institutional level, the schools listed above are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the regional organization that’s approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Finally, forensic science professionals do not need any special certification to practice in the state of Ohio, but some employers may express a preference for certified job candidates. Here is a list of some of the organizations offering certifications for forensic scientists, technicians, and CSIs in Ohio:
|Youngstown State University||Youngstown||x||12|
|University of Northwestern Ohio||Lima||x||x||11|
|Bowling Green State University-Main Campus||Bowling Green||x||11|
|Sinclair Community College||Dayton||x||8|
|The University of Findlay||Findlay||x||7|
|Washington State Community College||Marietta||x||7|
|Zane State College||Zanesville||x||6|
|Ohio Northern University||Ada||x||4|
|Central Ohio Technical College||Newark||x||4|
|Southern State Community College||Hillsboro||x||3|
|Lorain County Community College||Elyria||x||x||3|
|University of Akron Main Campus||Akron||x||x||2|
|Stark State College||North Canton||x||1|
School "total forensics grads" data provided by IPEDS (2018) for the 2016-2017 school year, and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Criminalistics and Criminal Science, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Science and Technology, Forensic Psychology, Cyber/Computer Forensics, and Financial Forensics and Fraud Investigation.
Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.